Our Moving Image staff surveys the world of film and video from classic to global, experimental to digital.
To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh to designer Na Kim, playwright Sibyl Kempson to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to […]
To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh to designer Na Kim, playwright Sibyl Kempson to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to .
“I’m a London-born, US-educated woman of Moroccan and Iraqi descent,” says Tala Hadid. “Sometimes I feel that I have a foot in both/all worlds. This hybrid existence, though sometimes complicated, is also a space of freedom that allows a particular way of seeing—to belong to all, and yet to none.” A filmmaker and photographer who trained as a painter, Hadid is the director of several award-winning short films including Your Dark Hair Ihsan (Tes Cheveux Noirs Ihsan) (2004) as well as the feature-length film Narrow Frame of Midnight (2014). In 2010/2011 she worked on an independent project entitled Heterotopia, a series of photographs documenting life a New York City brothel. Her most recent work, House in the Fields, a documentary film project depicting rural life in Morocco’s Atlas mountains, was screened at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival; it won a Final Cut Award at the Venice Film Market.
A return to the work of Judith Butler this year has brought with it a wiser view on the difficult and dangerous world in which we live and the spaces that we share. Two works in particular have been profoundly enlightening: Frames of War and Precarious Life. In her words, a speech given at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm:
We live together because we have no choice, and yet we must struggle to affirm the ultimate value of that unchosen social world, and that struggle makes itself known and felt precisely when we exercise freedom in a way that is necessarily committed to the equal value of lives. We can be alive or dead to the suffering of others, – they can dead or alive to us, depending on how they appear, and whether they appear at all; but only when we understand that what happens there also happens here, and that “here” is already an elsewhere, and necessarily so, that we stand a chance of grasping the difficult and shifting global connections in which we live.
I’ve spent this past year in Marrakech, returning with joy to this glorious city at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in between travels across the world for screenings of my last film. It is a city of enormous energy, An African City, Berber and Arab, Muslim, Christian and Jewish, under a strong sun and lit by the most beautiful and lucid of light, where the line between private and public space is constantly shifting, a city of the global South, of artisans and musicians, of young people and old, a mix of different classes and peoples living in close proximity in that fine balance of what can be called peaceful co-habitation.
Stephen F. Cohen
I’ve been listening this past year to a weekly conversation on a podcast, between Stephen F. Cohen, a scholar of Russian and Soviet political history since 1917, Professor of Russian Studies and History Emeritus at NYU, and Professor of Politics Emeritus at Princeton University, and John Batchelor, who hosts the radio news magazine The John Batchelor Show. It has been, and continues to be, a highly informative and intelligent conversation and analysis of world events and relations with Russia.
This year has been another important one exploring the beautiful books and translations from Brooklyn based not-for-profit press Archipelago Books.
In the words of Roberto Bolaño: the cowardly don’t publish the brave. Long live New Directions.
I was lucky to have been introduced to the Moroccan choreographer, Bouchra Ouizgen, and to her wonderful work and her troupe of dancers and collaborators. Here is dance filled with the élan of life, a fusion of the best of Moroccan tradition and a modernity that transcends easy labeling.
Full video of the last show at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris here.
In 1963, filmmaker Agnes Varda took thousands of photographs of Cuba. She hid them in a box and now, years later, they have been uncovered and are on display at the Centre Pompidou in Paris until early next year. A joy to discover!
The Wind in High Places
One word for The Wind in High Places by John Luther Adams: sublime. Listen and you can feel the cold bite of the air, the breath of wind on the skin, the vastness of the open sky and of nature unfolding eternally.
Carol Reed’s 1949 The Third Man was lovingly and rigorously restored and re-released this year. A joy to behold.
On December 12, at 12:00 pm, more than 10,000 people took over Avenue de la Grande Armée in Paris to unfurl long red lines to honor the victims of climate disasters and show their commitment to keep up the fight for climate justice. This year has ended, among other things, with the historic Paris Climate accord.
Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry. This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.
And lastly, in memoriam: Chantal Akerman.
To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from animator Miwa Matreyek and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Eric Hu and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: […]
To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from animator Miwa Matreyek and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Eric Hu and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to .
Sam Green is a documentary filmmaker best known for his Academy Award–nominated 2003 film The Weather Underground, which was featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. His most recent works include The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller (2012) , a live cinematic collaboration with the indie rock band Yo La Tengo (which came to the Walker in October 2013) and the new live musical documentary The Measure of All Things, a meditation on time, fate, and overall human experience, coming to the Walker stage on February 6, 2015.
Jackie Goss and Jenny Perlin, The Measures
My favorite film of the year. It’s an experimental documentary that retraces the 18th-century journey of two astronomers tasked with determining the true length of a meter. The story is wonderfully weird, but the form is what really makes the film so smart and sophisticated. Both Goss and Perlin filmed the same landscapes across Europe, each with their own Bolex, and the finished film includes the two images side by side. The two filmmakers perform a live version of this film where they read the voiceover in person. I loved it.
Yo La Tengo, “Nowhere Near”
I went and saw my pals and collaborators Yo La Tengo play a 30th-anniversary gig at Town Hall in NYC in December. They recently re-released one of their brilliant early records Painful and at the Town Hall show played many songs from that disc. This one just slayed me. I’ve listened to it over and over again since and think it’s pretty much a perfect pop song.
Miguel Gutierrez, Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/ at the Whitney
Was knocked out by this dance piece and what a powerful performer Miguel Gutierrez can be. The piece, which was in one of the small galleries at the museum, was funny, disturbing, mesmerizing, poignant and both Miguel and Mickey Mahar danced fantastically. I left feeling wonderful and exhilarated.
I did a six-week residency in Venice through the Emily Harvey Foundation and fell deeply in love with the city. My girlfriend, the choreographer Catherine Galasso, grew up in Venice and knows the city well. We had a magic, productive, and very inspiring time there.
Sometimes I go back and watch old films that especially resonated with me for one reason or another. The Dutch-Peruvian filmmaker Heddy Honigmann is probably my favorite documentarian. While I was in Venice, I re-watched her films Metal and Melancholy and Forever. I don’t have the space here to describe either of the films, but they are both gems. She has a way with people—is one of the most interesting interviewers working today—and both of these films are deeply, deeply human.
I got on Instagram to impress my 12-year-old niece. She’s a teen from central casting these days, and her phone, friends, and Instagram are pretty much the only things that matter to her. Initially, I thought that I would hold my nose and do a little bit of Instagramming just to show her that I’m cool, too (or at least I’m not totally lame). But to my great surprise, I ended up loving it. It’s playful, visual, kinda dorky, and because you cant post links, it’s free of much of the article-posting and event-promoting that often bores me with Facebook and Twitter. It’s coming up on my one-year anniversary on Instagram and I’m still high on it. (If you want to follow me, I’m sam_b_green).
I saw this documentary about the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland at the Film Forum in NYC where it had a smash-hit run over the summer. The Hadron Collider is a huge underground tunnel (17 miles in diameter) and is designed to allow physicists to make important discoveries by smashing particles at very high speeds. Sounds kinda snoozy, I’m sure, but the film is fantastic and inspiring and dramatic. Much of the credit for this goes to the fact that it was edited by the great Walter Murch.
My friend, the film programmer Chi-hui Yang, shared some of the Scottish filmmaker Duncan Campbell’s documentaries with me: Make it New John, and Bernadette. I was very taken with his creative and sophisticated approach to history and odd historical footnotes. Both films lingered with me for some time after (which is my measure of a strong work). I saw recently that Duncan Campbell recently won the Turner Prize.
Valerie Solanas by Breanne Fahs
Bill Horrigan, the curator at the Wexner Art Center, recommended this, and it turned out to be my favorite book of the year. I’d always been fascinated by Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol—probably part of my general interest in that time—and I’d also always been struck by the fact that she was a fantastic writer (take a look at her SCUM Manifesto to see what I mean). This biography goes very deep into her history—lots of things I hadn’t known about her—and the effect is that for the first time one can see Valerie as a complex and very human person. The book was also fantastically written I couldn’t put it down.
Xylouris White at Union Pool
I saw this duo made up of the Greek lute player George Xylouris and the Australian drummer Jim White (Dirty Three) at a small bar in Brooklyn, where they did an ongoing residency over the summer. An enormous, hypnotic, and roiling sound! I could watch Jim White drum for hours.
Miwa Matreyek. Photo: Eugene Ahn To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from filmmaker Sam Green and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Omar Sosa and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. […]
To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from filmmaker Sam Green and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Omar Sosa and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to .
Miwa Matreyek is an LA-based artist who fuses animation, performance, and installation to create surreal cinematic animation videos. Also a founder of Cloud Eye Control–a performance group that combines interactive media with live performance–Matreyek has shown her works at TEDGlobal (UK), Sundance Film Festival, Wexner Center for the Arts, Anima Mundi Animation Festival (Brazil), Time Based Arts Festival, REDCAT, ISEA, Theatre de la Cité (France), the Exploratorium, EXIT festival, Fusebox Festival, S8 (Spain), Animasivo (Mexico), Flat pack Film Festival (UK), Future Everything (UK), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, City of Women (Slovenia), Santiago a Mil (Chile), Houston Cinematic Arts festival, and more. Along with the short Myth and Infrastructure, her animation This World Made Itself will be screened at the Walker in 2015 as part of the Expanding the Frame and Out There series.
I love this Swedish songstress and her nature-witch persona. Her album Blue was released 2014, a song/video at a time.
Still Standing You
My favorite performance piece I saw in 2014, at Fusebox festival in Austin, Texas. Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido pushing the boundaries of what two men can do in a duet, with just their bodies and the clothes they showed up in. Almost childlike but simultaneously emotionally complex as they span from violence to tenderness, humor to almost hypnotic exploration of the mechanics of their bodies. Very up my alley.
They will be in Minneapolis for the Out There festival at the Walker, January 15–17, 2015.
Flying through an Aurora Borealis
My personal top-10 moment this year, while flying to the UK over the arctic. I was surprised that there was no special announcement from the flight deck that we were flying through a crazy natural phenomenon… and I might have been the only passenger to open my blinds in the middle of the night to see it. I always sit by the window when I fly. I find it important for myself to keep the awareness that I am a tiny human hurtling through the air in a metal tube with wings—and also see the vastness of the earth from this special aerial perspective—just a bit of my own small “overview effect” each time I fly. I recommend it.
Landing on a comet. Hooray, Humans! More of these kind of things, please.
A beautiful film. It took me along with the protagonist through growing up again… and little disappointment in adults/world.
Superposition: I really loved the percussionists as stage performers, tasks as performance.
It sure takes humor to have any perspective on this crazy world…
Careful’s album, The World Doesn’t End
One With Others was my other favorite show in 2014, also at Fusebox.
Walker development associate Masami Kawazato spotted this guerrilla sign posted by an anonymous Walker staffer in a back stairwell. “For me that 8 ½ level is the fake-out level,” emails Masami, whose office is in the top floor of the Walker’s Barnes building. “At 8 I get really excited I’m almost to the office after […]
Walker development associate Masami Kawazato spotted this guerrilla sign posted by an anonymous Walker staffer in a back stairwell. “For me that 8 ½ level is the fake-out level,” emails Masami, whose office is in the top floor of the Walker’s Barnes building. “At 8 I get really excited I’m almost to the office after trudging up those steps, and it’s like 8.5 is the teaser before you finally get to 9. Mostly I wanna know who did it!”
A “Fragment of a Continuum”: Jim Hodges’ World AIDS Day Film Puts Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Art in Context
The film — a 60-minute multimedia mash-up of cultural moments — both encompasses and transcends Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ era to include references to social justice struggles throughout history, from those inspired by the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War to the Rodney King beating and the death camps of World War II. In a recent interview, Hodges characterized the film as “a fragment of a continuum.” That is, a moment captured from a long, contentious, and ongoing fight for equality, fairness and a more just world.
Jim Hodges Photo: Gene Pittman, Walker Art Center
While Felix Gonzalez-Torres remains revered in the art world — he posthumously represented the United States at the 2007 Venice Biennale, and his work made up the thematic basis of the 2011 Istanbul Biennial — what may be starting to fade in our collective memory is the context in which he worked: the height of the AIDS crisis. Asked last year to do a talk on Gonzalez-Torres’ billboards, artist Jim Hodges opted instead to do a film, one the Walker and some 60 other arts and community organizations are screening in observation of World AIDS Day tomorrow. Hodges’ Untitled, a collaboration with Carlos Marques da Cruz and Encke King, aims to mirror the cultural environment his friend Felix was working within, from the bold activism of ACT UP to the political face of the ’80s culture wars. But the film — a 60-minute multimedia mash-up of cultural moments — both encompasses and transcends that era to include references to social justice struggles throughout history, from those inspired by the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War to the Rodney King beating and the death camps of World War II. In a recent interview, Hodges characterized the film as “a fragment of a continuum.” That is, a moment captured from a long, contentious, and ongoing fight for equality, fairness and a more just world.
Here are a few excerpts from my interview with Hodges, whose art will be featured in the 2014 Walker exhibition, Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take, co-curated by Walker executive director Olga Viso and Jeffrey Grove of the Dallas Museum of Art. Here are some excerpts from the full interview:
On how his film references Gonzalez-Torres’ art:
The film, as a structure, mimicked Felix’s “dateline” pieces, so there’s a crashing together of times. We bounce around from World War II to current times and back to the ’60s. There a lot of different times, and the tempo is quickly changing from one to the other. References in the film were references of Felix’s. The mirroring was a reference of Felix’s. Doubling of things was a reference of his.
The Smiths’ songs were references to Felix, because he loved the Smiths. The last song is “Death of a Disco Dancer,” and the first one is “Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me.”
The songs are really important because they’re the voice of art in the film. There’s an honesty, a directness. There’s something very specific that happens in the music that doesn’t necessarily happen in politics and the kind of conflicts that continue over and over, with people struggling to have self-expression and self-empowerment, struggling up against government. So, this is part of the continuum. It’s nothing new, and it’s still going on.
On the September 11 terrorist attacks on his home city of New York:
This country went to war with Iraq based on silly ideas that we needed to go and find these weapons of mass destruction. Why would we miss an opportunity when the World Trade towers were destroyed and we were left with that rubble, the fear and unknown, and the stillness that overtook the city for a few days? The crazy people actually stood out, because everyone else was in this state of shock. Wandering the streets. Quietly walking. Respectful of each other. We were all in a state of shock.
What you have in you as a person, through this, is: I would never want this to happen to anyone else. This is so horrible. This should never happen to anyone, to have this kind of horror imposed on you from you-don’t-know-what.
I felt: Wow, I know what this feels like. This feels like what it felt like in 1988, when Scott was diagnosed with HIV. This is what it felt like when Scott died in 1993 of AIDS. It was like, “Oh my god, that’s the same feeling.” I thought: “Okay, now the circle just expanded. It’s not just me and my friends and a small percentage of the population who are suffering from this phenomenon. Actually, all of us have been brought into this reality of horror.”
So now, we’re all vibrating from that same place. We’re all on the same ground. So now is the time to actually have a dialogue: What’s going on in this world? How could this happen to us? Why would we never want to do this to someone else?
What’s the politicians’ answer? This is a time to, boom-boom-boom, beat those drums and, boom-boom-boom, make some money and blow somebody up and expand ourselves and take advantage of someone in this weakness. Let’s use this horror and shock that people are in and take them into a place that’s even more horrific. This is the kind of grossness of the machinery of politics. I don’t know what it’s about, ultimately. I know it’s about power and holding onto it. I know it’s aligned with economics. But I know it’s not about what I went through or what people go through.
I don’t think Americans are different from other people. When you see mothers suffering because their kids are being killed, I think that mothers, no matter where they are, universally would say, “I would never want that to happen to someone else’s kid.” But the government isn’t a mother. And that’s part of the problem.
On why Untitled addresses both HIV/AIDS and other social issues:
The way our government irresponsibly didn’t address the health issue at hand when the AIDS crisis first became known is the problem. We have people in power who are disrespectful, who are prejudiced, who don’t see, who refuse to acknowledge an aspect of the society at large because of their ideological position. They won’t allow themselves to see the humanness that’s there. This is the problem that I see: this continuation—and the continuum—where the powers deny the humanness of the other. It creates the other and then destroys it, or is indifferent to it and lets it be destroyed. This is continually happening.
Felix had AIDS. Obviously, it was an important issue—not one that he was talking about all the time, but clearly it was affecting his work, his psyche. It ended his life. It had to be addressed in work by me as someone who was going to speak about him and his production, but it wasn’t the only thing that Felix talked about. It wasn’t the only thing where one can see, “Oh, here’s this problem. It’s just existing here, for us queer people.” No. Uh-uh. And it’s not a new problem, where people aren’t treated with respect.
On Gonzalez-Torres, who died from AIDS-related complications in 1996, and his art:
Think about where we are, what we suffer through, what we deal with—and what do we put forth? What are we bringing out and putting into the world, considering that the time bomb is ticking underneath our chair and there’s all this shit going on?
As universally acclaimed as Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 filmic icon is, its “ubiquitous presence has made The Godfather increasingly difficult to see,” writes The Los Angeles Times’ David Ulin. We remember the broad strokes — the horse’s head, the one-liners repeated ad infinitum by the contemporary Corleones on The Sopranos — but what “we forget, […]
As universally acclaimed as Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 filmic icon is, its “ubiquitous presence has made The Godfather increasingly difficult to see,” writes The Los Angeles Times’ David Ulin. We remember the broad strokes — the horse’s head, the one-liners repeated ad infinitum by the contemporary Corleones on The Sopranos — but what “we forget, though, is the power of the story, a narrative of assimilation and identity and the compromises we make with ourselves.”
In a review last week, Ulin suggests that a new book, The Annotated Godfather: The Complete Screenplay (Black Dog and Leventhal, 2007), by Jenny Jones of the Walker’s Film/Video department, can help us see the film “fresh after all these years.”
Jones, who worked at Oak Street Cinema and Portland’s Northwest Film Center before becoming the program associate for the Walker’s Regis Dialogues and Retrospectives, wrote the book to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the film’s release. And she does unearth some surprising information:
Twelve directors turned down offers to make the film version of Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel, including, at first, the then nearly unknown Coppola, who considered it “sleazy.”
One of the most quotable lines in the movie, “ Leave the gun, take the cannolis,” was ad-libbed by actor Richard Castellano.
Paramount Pictures pushed Puzo to write the original screenplay as a modern story “set in the 1970s, complete with hippies.” When Coppola came on board he dismissed it as “a slick, contemporary gangster picture of no importance. It wasn’t Puzo’s fault. He just did what they told him to do.” It took Coppola and Puzo two more drafts to arrive at the final script, which Jones’ reproduces in full, with notes by Puzo and Coppola scrawled in the margins.
The “most famous technical mistake of the movie” remained because of budgetary concerns. In it James Caan as the hot-headed Sonny missed a punch during a street fight with his brother-in-law, Carlo. “At that point we were just rushing, and it turned out that the best take had this one miss,” said Coppola. “Today they could fix it with digital effects.”
With more than 200 production photos, interviews with actors and crew members, and details on deleted scenes and bloopers, the book, says Jones, offers a rich look into “a film that continues to captivate us, decades after its release, and appeals to both erudite film buffs and TV couch potatoes alike.”
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEjev-8e-yM[/youtube] Melody Gilbert has a way of tapping into the zeitgeist. Her film Whole (2003) came out two years before the New York Times reported on a psychological disorder in which people are obsessed with having limbs amputated. Her newest film, Urban Explorers: Into the Darkness, delves into a culture I began noticing relatively recently: […]
Melody Gilbert has a way of tapping into the zeitgeist. Her film Whole (2003) came out two years before the New York Times reported on a psychological disorder in which people are obsessed with having limbs amputated. Her newest film, Urban Explorers: Into the Darkness, delves into a culture I began noticing relatively recently: the clandestine and usually illegal exploration of deteriorating or forgotten elements of urban history, from abandoned factories to underground sewer tunnels. Inspired by a 2003 news report about the arrest of six local people who were mistaken for terrorists because of their night-vision goggles, rappelling equipment, and gasmasks, she set out to document this largely hidden endeavor (what one critic calls “tresspassing as hobby”), travelling from Minneapolis to Paris and beyond. Since then UE has blossomed with countless videos, blogs, clubs, meetups, and webrings dedicated to it.
See if you agree with this: a panel of experts–Peter Bradshaw, Xan Brooks, Molly Haskell, Derek Malcolm, Andrew Pulver, B Ruby Rich and Steve Rose–convened on the Guardian‘s behalf to select the “40 best directors.” Using a 20-point scale, with 20 the best, they graded each artist’s substance, look, craft, orginality, and intelligence. While Walker […]
See if you agree with this: a panel of experts–Peter Bradshaw, Xan Brooks, Molly Haskell, Derek Malcolm, Andrew Pulver, B Ruby Rich and Steve Rose–convened on the Guardian‘s behalf to select the “40 best directors.” Using a 20-point scale, with 20 the best, they graded each artist’s substance, look, craft, orginality, and intelligence. While Walker film audiences should recognize plenty of names, there are some surprises: no Coppola, Kurosawa, Kubrick, or Hitchcock (hmm, while it doesn’t say so, this appears to be a list of living directors.)
And the winners are (in suspense-enhancing order):
40. Gus Van Sant
39. David Fincher
38. Takashi Miike
37. Lars von Trier
35. Larry and Andy Wachowski
34. David O. Russell
33. Pavel Pawlikowski
32. Gaspar Noe
31. Richard Linklater
30. Takeshi Kitano
29. Wes Anderson
28. Michael Moore
27. Ang Lee
25. Spike Jonze
24. Alexander Payne
23. Walter Salles
22. Michael Haneke
21. Paul Thomas Anderson
20. Michael Winterbottom
19. Aki Kaurismaki
18. Tsai Ming Liang
17. Quentin Tarantino
16. Todd Haynes
15. Pedro Almodovar
14. Wong Kar-wai
13. Bela Tarr
12. Lynne Ramsay
11. Lukas Moodysson
10. Terence Davies
8. Hayao Miyazaki
5. Terrence Malick
4. Steven Soderbergh
3. Joel and Ethan Coen
2. Martin Scorsese
1. David Lynch
Jesus Camp, the film about a now-closed “Kids on Fire” bible camp by documentarians Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (whose Boys of Baraka showed here at Women with Vision 2006), keeps racking up awards like the Special Documentary Jury Prize at Tribeca and the Sterling Award at SilverDocs. Now you can watch the entire film […]
Jesus Camp, the film about a now-closed “Kids on Fire” bible camp by documentarians Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (whose Boys of Baraka showed here at Women with Vision 2006), keeps racking up awards like the Special Documentary Jury Prize at Tribeca and the Sterling Award at SilverDocs. Now you can watch the entire film at GoogleVideo.
Known for films that combine street footage with elements of documenary, narrative, and experimental approaches, Jem Cohen’s filmography includes the documentaries Instrument (1999), made with and about the band Fugazi, and Benjamin Smoke (2000), among others. Coming to the Walker April 27 for a dialogue with musician Vic Chesnutt, Cohen discussed his first narrative feature […]
Known for films that combine street footage with elements of documenary, narrative, and experimental approaches, Jem Cohen’s filmography includes the documentaries Instrument (1999), made with and about the band Fugazi, and Benjamin Smoke (2000), among others. Coming to the Walker April 27 for a dialogue with musician Vic Chesnutt, Cohen discussed his first narrative feature film, Chain (which screens here on April 26) with Dean Otto, assistant film/video curator. For the work, he converted the non-narrative three-screen installation Chain X 3, featuring endless footage of chain stores, fast-food restaurants, and suburban parking lots, into a fictional feature on the same themes but using character actors. In this excerpt of their interview (full interview here), Cohen discusses how footage he habitually shoots whenever he travels coalesced into a refined film concept.
Dean Otto: At what point did you realize that project was the one you would be working on with that footage?
Jem Cohen: Well, I think it came out of my work doing city portraits–places that had a regional character that was strong, but endangered. So I was often having to frame things out: a billboard or a new skyscraper or a franchise hotel or a mall encroaching on some extraordinary neighborhood. I’d be shooting a beautiful street in Prague in the middle of the night and I would have my back to the new McDonalds that was ruining the view in that direction. After contending with that, often by documenting the very thing that was disappearing, I began to feel that I had some kind of obligation to deal with this new world and to face these issues head on. I forced myself to put those things that I had long avoided square into the center of the frame and to examine the changes.
DO: It’s very poignant that you’re presenting this work here because the first indoor mall in America was Southdale in Edina, Minnesota. With the explosion in the number of corporate mergers, it seems as if a small number of corporations are dictating architecture through branding and franchising, and there is a real comfort that people feel through corporate identity.
JC: That’s an integral part of the project: it isn’t about any one thing, but that is as important as any other theme in there. Corporations are faced with this endless, brutal game of trying to create the impression of novelty while really destroying difference. It’s kind of devastating, but it’s really important that we take a closer look at it. I can’t believe I came to the Midwest and didn’t get out to the Mall of America–the ber mall.
Earlier: Jem Cohen’s run-in with Homeland Security!